03 November 2006

Life Pauses

Every once in a while, in the middle of a hailstorm, there's a moment of calm when the frozen spheres of ice stop pelting the wet earth. Then, a heartbeat later, the hailstones start up again, harder and faster, and leave your brand new hybrid SUV with a fresh coat of pockmarks.

Occasionally, when a horde of gibbering barbarians are ripping you limb from limb, a butterfly lands on your nose, forcing a brief hiatus in the carnage as you all admire its delicate gracefulness. It only lasts a moment, however, and soon enough, you find yourself adding a delicately musky flavor to several dozen pots of nutritious broth.

Very infrequently -- in fact, so infrequently as to be almost unheard of -- the Internet has a moment of universal lag. All over the world, illegal music downloads stand still, a million Counterstrike players curse simultaneously, and the rerun of Wolf Blitzer's talking head comes to a jerky halt. It only lasts a microsecond, and then the seekers of immorality, frivolity, and futility can resume their lives.

Sometimes, even the sea itself stops its motion and simply lies there, full and unwanting, self-reliant, at perfect peace.

These moments are necessary because they give the universe a chance to recalibrate. Anubis tares his scale against Ma'at's feather; Loki, in his raven form, has a delicious snack of birdseed; Lazarus asks Abraham for one last drink before shuffling back to the mortal coil.

Ultimately, though, even the sea must return to action, as Matthew Arnold wrote:
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
But just before that note of sadness, there is a heavenly caesura whose soundless resonance cannot be overwhelmed by the sea's despairing, eternal cadence.

Obscured, yes.

Extinguished, never.

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